Civil society dialogue

The European Union believes that democracy and human rights are universal values that should be vigorously promoted around the world. They are integral to effective work on poverty alleviation and conflict prevention and resolution, in addition to being valuable bulwarks against terrorism. Democratic processes of accountability are also vital in ensuring government transparency, and play a key role in combating corruption.

The EU has made human rights a central aspect of its external relations: in its political dialogues with third countries; through its development policy and assistance; and through its action in multilateral fora.

Since 1995 the European Community has inserted a human rights clause in all agreements, other than sectoral agreements, concluded with non-industrialized countries defining respect for human rights and democracy as an essential element underlying the bilateral relations. Human rights and democratization issues are mainstreamed into all aspects of EU policy decision-making and implementation, as outlined in the Communication on the EU's role on promoting human rights and democratization in third countries (2001).

Since the adoption of the European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership   by the European Council in June 2007, bilateral relations between the EU and Kazakhstan have intensified in a number of fields. One particular area is that of human rights, where the EU and Kazakhstan entered into an enhanced dialogue in October 2008. The EU-Kazakhstan human rights dialogue offers a platform for discussion on questions of mutual interest, and serves to enhance cooperation on human rights in multilateral fora such as the OSCE and the United Nations. Officials from the European Union meet their counterparts from Kazakhstan's government on a yearly basis to address concerns in the field of human rights, while a yearly "Civil Society Seminar" brings together NGOs, academics and practitioners from the EU and Kazakhstan to discuss specific questions and exchange best practices.

The EU seeks to support Kazakhstan's ongoing legal reforms in the area of the rule of law, offering experience and know-how, in particular through financial and technical cooperation and specific projects funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The EIDHR, a worldwide financial instrument, was established in 2006 on the basis of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, a programme adopted by the European Parliament in 1994. Under this specific budget line, the European Commission finances a variety of projects in Kazakhstan, focusing on encouraging a pluralistic political system while strengthening the role of civil society. Kazakhstan receives about 1 million euro per year under this programme. The European Union Delegation works with stakeholders such as local NGOs and media to strengthen civil society, to foster the free flow of information and to promote international human rights standards.

A further instrument of cooperation in the European Union Delegation's dialogue with civil society is the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities programme . This new programme set up in 2011, aims to support development actions aimed at non-state actors and/or local authorities, and focuses on achieving more efficient cooperation with these groups. In particular, the NSA/LA programme fosters synergies and facilitates a structured dialogue in the area of development between civil society networks and local authorities associations from the EU and acceding countries, within their organisations and with Community institutions.